Romance is in the Air For Chinese Moviegoers


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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

April 16, 2013

When spring arrives in China, romance blossoms not only between lovers, but also at the multiplex.

In 2011 it was Eternal Moment and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart that enticed moviegoers to heart-warming grosses of $31 million (2011’s 8th biggest Chinese language release) and $15 million, respectively.

Last year audiences were smitten with Titanic 3D, which seduced them into a hearty $74 million opening week and a lusty ultimate $154 million gross.

And this spring, romance has been in bloom for a full month, with Finding Mr. Right leading the box office for three straight weeks (grossing $77 million so far as of Tuesday) before it handed off the torch to A Wedding Invitation (分手合约), which led all comers with a $9.8 million score over the weekend.

The Chinese-Korean co-production A Wedding Invitation was directed by Korean comedy master Oh Ki Hwan and stars Eddie Peng (Cold War, Taichi 0) and Bai Baihe (Love is Not Blind) as a pair of star-crossed lovers who, after five years of pursuing divergent lives and careers, finally reunite. Look for Wedding Invitation to gross in the low- to mid-20 millions over the next ten days, until Iron Man 3 grabs many of China’s available screens.

In the mean time there’s lots more romance on the way, with four new Chinese language romances and romantic comedies set to open on the mainland in the next week and a half. These include the youth romance Sweet Eighteen, the romantic comedy Lemon, the China/Taiwan co-pro Ripples of Desire, and most significantly, So Young, the highly anticipated directorial debut of actress and pop singer Vicky Zhao. I expect So Young to give Iron Man 3 some stiff competition when the two films open against each other on April 26th.

Although action remains China’s most popular film genre, romance has been a steady second best in recent years, holding a 17 percent market share in 2012 and roughly the same so far in 2013. Domestic Chinese romances and romantic comedies have been especially potent this year, and because these films are inexpensive and logistically easier to produce than action movies, and because films like Finding Mr. Right are making enormous profits, we can look for many more such pictures to come.Box office week ending 4-14-13

Chinese language titles once again dominated the box office, taking the top four spots in the rankings and nabbing an 89 percent market share for the week. American movies now hold a mere 23 percent share of mainland ticket revenues for the year, a disastrous drop from the 57 percent share they held at this point last year.

Weekly box office nationwide totaled $48 million, down by 43 percent compared to the same week last year, when the juggernaut Titanic 3D swept through China’s cinemas. The week ahead will also be down compared with last year, and then after the massive Titanic comps are out of the way, China’s upward year-on-year trend should continue. China’s year-to-date aggregate box office revenue in 2013 is 44 percent ahead of 2012.

Hollywood’s studios can only hope that their upcoming releases perform better than their films that are currently playing. The only U.S. picture to index well so far this year is A Good Day to Die Hard, which will end its run with $31 million, a total that is impressive only when compared to its weak results in the rest of the world. Oz the Great and Powerful will probably wind up at less than $30 million, and Jack the Giant Slayer will finish up at around $9 million. Whereas U.S. distributors must have been hoping for several $100+ million releases in China this year, the way things are going most of their pictures will be lucky to reach even half that amount.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

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China’s Box Office: “Love” in the Air on Valentine’s Day


By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 27, 2012

Valentine’s Day offered a tasty treat for cinema operators in China, with a massive Tuesday gross of more than $20 million from nearly 3 million admissions.

Lovers were lured to theaters by a slew of new and holdover romantic offerings, led by Huayi Brothers’ all-star ensemble romantic drama Love (), which snared $13.89 million in ticket sales during Cupid’s week. The film is stocked with stars who have played romantic roles before, like Eddie Peng (My DNA Says I Love You, My So Called Love, Love You You), Ethan Ruan (L-O-V-E), Shu Qi (New York I Love You) and Zhao Wei (A Time to Love), and tells the story of three couples whose lives are intertwined in romances across Beijing and Taipei.

Other romance-themed pictures included holdovers I Do with $6.31 in its second week and Romancing in Thin Air with $1.17 million, and new release Truth or Dare with $1.82 million.

Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, has swiftly become a major commercial holiday in China. It has supplanted the traditional Chinese Lovers Day holiday as a time for romance, popular for candle-lit dinners followed by movie dates, and for spikes in supermarket sales of chocolates, cakes, flowers and wine.

Not all the romancing is as wholesome as Confucius would have liked; in addition to blossoming young love, Valentine’s Day has also become synonymous with extramarital affairs. According to anti-adultery activist Xia Haixin “Hotels are booked up around Valentine’s Day and florists, sex shops, and jewelry stores are booming, but few people spend Valentine’s Day with their spouse.”

According to a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Xia has paid to install billboards on a highway in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing, urging drivers, “Don’t have an affair on Valentine’s Day. Bring your love home.” As Xia explains, “We want to remind people to behave themselves instead of making mistakes on the day.”

Aside from romance, Chinese moviegoers also had adventure on their minds, as Journey 2: The Mysterious Island seized the top spot at the box office with $21.24 million for a 10-day cume of $36.5 million. Journey benefitted from numerous IMAX and 3D playdates, and is now the second film of 2012 to top $30 million, after Mission Impossible 4. M:I4 added $12.3 million to its gross, and now appears likely to break the $100 million mark in China.

New releases for the week of February 20th include 3 foreign films: Happy Feet 2, Conan the Barbarian and, nearly a year and a half after its initial US release, the 2011 Oscar winning hit The King’s Speech. It promises to be another good week at the box office so long as all those Chinese lovers aren’t too fatigued from their Valentine’s Day  trysts.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.